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January 6, 2013

Reader Mail - International Edition!

Believe it or not, despite writing a locally focused blog all about San Francisco, I have occasionally received mail from people from Far Away Elsewhere. For example, a while ago a group of fans from Europe of the TV show "Streets of San Francisco" looking for advice on how to find various locations on the program, as well as how to best navigate Muni.

Yesterday I received an interesting email from Prague, Czech Republic from Reader Aude, who found the blog via The Google for an interesting reason - they are translating a book set in San Francisco, and found one passage difficult to decode, despite consulting both Google and Muni Maps. Read on:

Hi Greg!

This is Aude, from the other side of the Atlantic :-)
I've never been to SF but I'm currently translating into French a book you've maybe heard of since it's set in your city, that is Homeboy, by Seth Morgan.
At one point there's this sentence (in case (!!!!) you have the book it's on p.80) which mentions the N Judah. I've been trying to follow through the Muni web and Google maps, but must say I'm at a loss.
Here it is:

"He turned onto a side street and parked in its culdesac over the streetcar tunnel. He walked to the railing overlooking the tracks and leaned against a streetlamp that looked, in the swirling mist, like a giant dandelion atop a wrought iron stem. The N Judah car burst out between his legs, rattle-trapping down the cutbacks through the steep backyards, jiggling in its yellow windows like a corn in a popper newspapers, crossed legs, a woman applying lipstick. Scanning the gray density of buildings, Joe spotted the house on Treat Street by the police lights. They pulsed in the fog like red amoebas."

I'd have two questions, if you're kind enough to help.

- First do you have an idea of where the character can be? It looks like Treat St is very short and quite far from the N Judah way.

- Second, do you have an idea of what the cutbacks are here? Does the author mean this kind of tortuous, steep and narrow streets of San Francisco? (I can't imagine the tramway following a zig-zaggy way...)

Thanks a lot for your help, I hope I'll make it one day to San Francisco and take the N Judah :-)

All best from Praha, and a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!


This made an interesting puzzle. We know for a fact the N doesn't "cut through steep back yards" - that would more accurately describe the J-Church right before it arrives at Dolores Park. Likewise, neither Treat Street, nor Treat Avenue are near any streetcar/LRV lines either.

Treat Avenue is within semi-walking distance from the J, but not like the way it's described here. As for a cul-de-sac (or any spot above a tunnel vis a vis the N) the only place this could be describing would be somewhere above one of the entrances to the Sunset Tunnel (this book was written long before the N went to Caltrain).

After much discussion, I told Aude that it was likely the author was taking some artistic license with San Francisco geography, much as Hollywood does when filming car chase scenes or having cable cars appear like they criss cross the City.

What do you think? Post your thoughts in the comments section!


November 30, 2012

Reader Mail: A Rather Hellish Commute During Today's Storm

Today's commute was no fun for anyone, what with the storms making everything on the road (cars, buses, bikes, etc) difficult, to say the least. This morning I saw a lot of tweets with tales of mayhem, but this one from Reader Phuong, was particularly detailed.

Knowing that a big storm was coming, I specifically delayed a meeting scheduled for today, and made sure I didn't need to go anywhere, since no matter how much one prepares, the first big storm of the year almost ensures a lot of problems, despite everyone's best efforts.

Anyway, here's Reader Phuong's commute:

https://twitter.com/sfmta_muni/status/274566420627591168 https://twitter.com/sfmta_muni/status/274569101261803521

ABOUT THIS.

I got to Forest Hill Station this morning about 8:55, thinking I could get to work by 9:30. A 1-car M train entered the station and it was already packed. I managed to squeeze on, and another guy was behind me pressed against the door. I held on.

8:58am
We started moving and suddenly we weren't moving anymore. All of 100, maybe 150 feet into the tunnel the train slammed to a stop.

8:59am
The driver came onto the horn shortly after to explain that he had this train yesterday and that it's a "bad train". His words. Apparently it has a tendency to throw its emergency brake on. The remainder of our 35 minutes underground, he left the speaker on, providing at least some levity.

9:04am
He reset the electronics. The doors popped open. I held on tightly to the bar while the guy behind me almost fell out when he was leaning against the door. It remained wide open for minutes while we clung to the bars, hoping the train didn't suddenly decide to start moving again. Jokes passed around the car, people who couldn't tweet the situation used the old-fashioned method of speaking their thoughts aloud, but eventually the doors closed again.

9:08am
From the front of the car, we start hearing a girl ask the driver if he could let us off--let her off. She wanted to get off. She needed to get off. But the doors were not going to open again, so don't hold your breath. Angry, and halfway to tears, she attempted to get at the emergency handle on the window to get out. Too bad she couldn't get to it.

9:10am
A mousy girl asks if anyone has a phone that can go online. We're about 70 feet underground. Sorry.

9:14am
We hear for the next several minutes the driver talking to someone from dispatch about what he had been doing and what he needed to do. Reset the electronics. Apologize to the riders. Explain again it was a bad train he had yesterday and had the same problems. His fixes yesterday aren't fixing it anymore. The steps need to go down, and I watch my feet to see if I'm going to be half-standing on nothing in a minute. Nothing happens. He announces again that he needs to reset the circuit breakers, and the steps will go down and the doors will open. I continue to brace myself, but it never happens.

9:20am
"What the FUCK are you doing?" says a gruff female voice. "You keep moving and it's pissing me off." It's getting a little "Lord of the Flies" in here.

9:22am
The driver says that they're going to hook up a train to ours and pull us back to the station.

9:24am
An engineer walks into the tunnel and enters into the front of the train. The angry girl who wanted to get off attempts to get off. She is unsuccessful. The engineer departs.

9:25am
The train rumbles. The other train must be getting hooked up now. Our train lurches forward and people nearly fall over.

9:27am
The engineer returns and this time announces that he needs to get to the middle. We all have to shove off to the sides so he can get to the middle where the electrical panel is. We cram off as best we can, things get tight. He reaches the panel and unscrews it, exposing the electronics inside. He checks that everything is in place and presses a button before before leaving us again.

9:29am
Another lurch forward and more people fall over. I notice the A/C has stopped running.
https://twitter.com/phuongmai/status/274580005462368256

9:30am
A girl in the middle starts crying. She's becoming claustrophobic. "Is there something we can do to make this better for you?" a kind man asks. "I just want to get off." We all do. But before that, we start moving forward again before suddenly coming to a halt.

9:32am
We finally start moving backwards toward the station. Only once again to stop. Everyone is annoyed now, and it's getting warm.

9:33am
We are moving slowly back to Forest Hill Station. The ordeal takes a few more minutes. As we inch into the station, there are bewildered faces everywhere. The platform is packed. One of us remarks, "They better know this next train is for us." Laughter.

9:36am
Freedom! I inhale deeply. And suddenly the platform feels like it could sag under our additional weight. The platform keeps filling up and there's hardly any standing room. The train takes longer to just get out of the damn way.

9:38am
A 2-car L starts pulling into the station. It's packed. Old Chinese ladies elbow their way on somehow. One girl from my original train shoves her way on angrily, literally pushing a guy out of her way. I can't board.

9:41am
A 1-car T stalls before fully pulling into the station. If I can get on, I can get to work without a transfer. Non-elderly Chinese women elbow their way on. I guess they start early. I get within 3 feet of the doors this time.

9:43am
Another 1-car T pulls into the station. I'm getting on this. I'm getting on this and I'm shoving everyone out of the way if I have to. I am an old Chinese lady. I glance to a girl to my left in a red jacket. She has been next to me since we got off our train and has missed them all just as I have. I'm hopeful she gets on this one with me. It's not packed, not yet. I think about what kind of gesture it would be to hold out my hand and tell her, "You're not missing another one." I do nothing. I make it. She doesn't.

10:07am
I make it to Van Ness Station.

10:11am
I'm completely out of the tunnel.

10:17am
I am at the 2nd and King stop. The air is fresh. It's raining, but it feels amazing to not be on Muni anymore.

June 20, 2012

Reader Mail - What Happened to the NX Bus On Monday?

Today in Reader Mail, Loyal Reader Nicole writes in to ask what happened to the NX Buses on Monday. Apparently it was a tale of woe that involved ghost buses and a lot of confusion. Were you stuck in this mess too? Do you have an idea what happened? If so, post in the comments.

For now, here's her letter:

Hi,

I was wondering if you might be able enlighten me about something that happened on Monday with the N Judah Express Outbound. I only take it on Mondays, so this is the first time I've ever seen this happen, so perhaps it's normal?

I had been checking my muni predictor on my smart phone while walking to the bus stop and it said that a Nx would be leaving in like 5 minutes and 15 minutes and 25 minutes. I hurried there in less than 5. there was a pretty long line and no bus. the expected times on the app ticked down to 1 min, 11 min and 21 min. still no bus. and then the app suddenly predicted: 9min, 19min and 29 min. not a bus in sight. more and more people got in line behind me. Again it ticked down to 1min, but no bus. I went to the front of the line and asked the first person what time she got there, she said she had been there for the 6pm bus but it never came There also was no extra muni person with the clipboard and vest who always there keep track of everything in the evenings telling each of the Express drivers when to leave.

the line stretched all the way down the block. the times on my app kept changing as if Nx's were arriving and departing, but they were totally not there, they weren't idling anywhere like they normally were, they were nowhere. I was feeling like we were "the lost souls" of Sutter and Sansome.

Eventually the guy behind me checked and saw an NJudah LRV OB would be arriving at Montgomery in 3 minutes, so we decided to take our chances, leave the line and run for it. I got home, but it took me way way longer than it normally would with the Nx because i first wasted so much time in line for busses that never came, and then I had to take the much much slower and crowded LRV (I live at 40th, so it's a pretty long ride)

So, all that to ask, do you have any insight as to what on earth happened on Monday? have you heard about this from anyone at all? Does this happen often on other days of the week (I only take it on mondays, so I totally wouldn't know). Do they keep people waiting and then suddenly pull up with like 3 buses to make up for all the ones that were supposed to have come by in the past half hour? I'm wondering, should I have stuck it out? everyone I asked didn't seem to think it was normal, but very few of them seemed annoyed. (Perhaps after the shuttle fiasco that accompanied the shut down of the NJudah last month, everyone has built up a stronger tolerance)

Nicole

April 27, 2011

Reader Mail: An Urgent Call For Witnesses to an N-Judah/Car Crash in March

In early March, the N-Judah crashed into a car, and the person driving the car is the grandmother of Reader David. In the aftermath of said accident, David's grandmother suffered significant injuries. Now, in an attempt to better understand what happened, David's family is searching for more information from eyewitnesses who saw the accident and can shed some light on the sequence of events. If you know of any information, please contact him at the email listed in his email. Thanks!

Almost two months ago, on March 3, 2011, my grandmother's car collided with the N Judah light rail train at Judah and 24th Avenue.

As a result of the accident, she sustained a skull fracture, broken bones (collar bone, sternum, and four ribs), and deep lacerations on her legs. She was hospitalized at San Francisco General Hospital for nearly four weeks, and has only recently returned home. Her life has permanently changed, as she now needs constant supervision when eating, walking, and using the bathroom.

As far as I can tell, the only media coverage of the event is this SF Examiner article and this SF Appeal article. To better understand what happened on March 3, our family is searching for any witnesses of the accident.

Were you in the immediate area of the N Judah accident on March 3 (or do you know anyone who recalls the scene)?

Were you on board the outbound N Judah Muni train on March 3 (or was anyone you know on board the Muni train)?

Do you live near the intersection of Judah and 24th (or do you know anyone who lives in this area)?

If you've answered yes to any of the above questions, please contact me at david.s.drabkin@gmail.com. Thank you for your attention to this urgent personal appeal

October 26, 2010

Reader Mail: A "What the Heck?" Moment on the N

This hasn't been a great week so far for our Mighty N. First, we had the train jump the tracks last night, which caused quite a bit of ruckus. Now, Reader Peter writes in with a strange situation on the N today:

I hope you can advise a neophyte...

I tried to take my kids to 31st and Judah this morning (26 October, 11 AM) by getting on the N at Duboce Park. The online Muni schedule says that all trains run out to Ocean Beach, and when I called 311 the person advising me told me the same thing... every 10ish minutes, all the way to La Playa.

However we waited for an hour at Duboce Park, and each train that came by said that they stopped at 19th and went no further. We went home.

I called 311 again and they said that the drivers were wrong, all trains go to La Playa.

So I turn to you, who seem to know more about this than anyone else. What's the deal??

Thanks,

Peter

I have to say this is a bit strange. I haven't heard of any track work being done that would have caused this, and it seems even stranger that there'd be so many trains stopping at 19th in the middle of the day. (That's usually reserved for rush hour).

The disconnect between what 311 says, what the drivers say, and what Muni says makes this even more baffling. Loyal Readers, feel free to offer your observations. Perhaps we'll get a response from Muni in the process!

September 22, 2010

Reader Mail: A Tale of Clipper Card Woe

A reader wrote in via the SF Gate Transit Blog about a tale of extreme woe with Clipper Customer Service. It is the precise reason I have held out so long with my paper passes, hassles and all. In addition to many clipper readers having busted clocks, now we hear of this (and it's not as uncommon as you might think).

I don't know if you've heard from other readers about issues with Clipper Card, but I have been dealing with their customer service department for the past few days, and I am extremely disappointed. I'm sure others have similar experiences. Here's my situation:

I loaded my wife's clipper card with a Muni-only monthly pass on 8/31/10 using my debit card online. The charge went through on 9/1/10, as reflected on my bank statement. My wife used the card as normal without an issue until Friday 9/17/10. Her monthly pass was deactivated.

I spoke with customer service on Saturday 9/18/10. They informed me that "when their system tried to autoload the card, my bank denied the charge so they cancelled the pass." I honestly don't know why their system would do this. I put the pass on the card as a one-time purchase, not an autoload. And they never notified us of the cancellation. The clipper card is registered, they have our phone numbers and email addresses. We didn't hear a thing.

I explained to the customer service rep that they already charged me $60 and they should reinstate the pass. They asked me to fax a copy of my bank statement showing the charge, which I did on Saturday 9/18/10. Apparently they keep no record of online purchases in their system. I called back on Monday 9/20/10 to confirm the receipt of the fax and to check the status of the pass reinstatement. I was put on hold for several minutes while the rep I spoke to tried to contact the original rep I talked to. No dice. She asked for my phone number and told me she would call me back. She never called back. I called again on Tuesday 9/21/10. This time the rep seemed to be more helpful and said that it showed that the system showed that the pass would become active by Midnight on 9/22/10. The rep also informed me she would call me back by 10 a.m. to discuss reimbursement for the fares we've had to pay since they deactivated the card. The pass did not work this morning (9/22). I've received no call as of yet.

I called back and was told today (9/22) that the fax never got through (I'm looking at the "transmission successful" confirmation form) and I'd have to re fax the materials, but this particular rep would be leaving at
3 p.m. so if I couldn't fax it before then, I couldn't be helped until tomorrow. Now I am just going to try to pursue a refund. We shall see how it turns out, but I'm not hopeful. I can't believe how awful the customer
service has been.

This new system is flawed, both from a human and technical perspective. The system cancels passes, apparently acting on it's own devices. Their customer service reps don't seem to know how to serve customers. I was glad to be an early adopter, it seemed like such a convenience. But after my experience, I feel it's a shame we are being forced to use this system. I'm sure there will be thousands of people in my situation in the coming months. With such failures in customer service, I sincerely doubt they're going to get it together in time.

Jason

There seems to be several issues here. One is training of the CSRs you get on the phone - I've had simliar problems with people telling me information that is simply wrong wrong wrong, and ending up paying more "fees" in the process. There is also the issue of having a poor customer service line and "privatizing" most of this witih places like Walgreen's, which have varying levels of experience with the Clipper system (the other day I had the problem of not being able to buy one because they sold "too many" of them) and then of course there's the $30 million failgates.

People are tired of hearing excuses, especially when we've spent hundreds of millions of dollars and yet somehow, despite the exact same technology working just fine elsewhere, when you get to the San Francisco Bay Area, nothing works.

If we have a tidal wave of fare collection fail next month, I don't plan on retweeting the fails, I plan on turning off the Internet.

May 28, 2010

Urinating In Public: It's Not Just For Bros at BTB Anymore! Now it's a "Giveback" from Muni Operators!

IMAG0012.jpgReader Brendan was riding the N Judah the othe day, and spotted a flyer tacked on to an out-of-order farebox with an "out of order" sticker on it. Despite the sticker, it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out what it says. Click on the picture for the details or read Reader Brendan's message:
Hey Greg,

I found the following bulletin taped to an out of order fare box on the last car of an outbound N tonight. Most of it is obscured by an "Out of Service" sticker, but you can get the jist from what is showing.

"Complains have...operators urinating in pub(lic)...of 3rd and Marin Street. This is unprofess(ional)...tolerated. Employees will...action up to and including disn(???)... Your coope(ration)...appreciated.

So basically it appears that a few of the bad apple Muni operators are having a piss party in the vicinity of 3rd and Marin (a whole block away from the new yard, which I assume has facilities for them to use).

Thought you'd find it amusing.

You'd think with all the emotional and political fallout from Muni's collapse would make folks at Muni, who are on the hot seat already, try and keep things in line at least for the short term. Hmm.

January 28, 2010

Reader Mail: A Loyal N Owner/Rider Expresses What A Lot Of Us Are Thinking + More Cuts via SF Appeal

NJudah-postage copy.jpgThis week has not been a happy one for our Mighty N....what with the chaos from the other day sending N-Judah trains to Church St. Station and so on. Reader Joel writes what a lot of you are thinking (based on the number of people I've seen on Twitter expressing frustration and late-to-work laments), and I posted a little follow up on the day to day fail vs. fantasyland at the MTA:
There has been a delay—some very substantial—EVERY SINGLE DAY THIS WEEK! I don’t even remember it being THAT bad when they introduced the T to the system. What in Willie Brown’s name is going on?!? Monday: stopped still 20 minutes during rush hour in Market Tunnel

Tuesday: nothing dramatic but there was “heavy traffic” and a much much slower than usual

Wednesday: Duboce Tunnel closed during rush hour, N passengers dumped off and left to wander off to Church station, or the F, or the bus, or whatever

Thursday: crash at 18th Ave, watched several packed shuttles, 71s, and 28s go by from 20th Ave before I finally was able to jump on a 28 and catch the L.

Friday: ??? We could be in for a real treat!

I’ve been late every single day this week—from anywhere from 15 minutes to almost 1 ½ hours! Thankfully I have an understanding boss, but this has gone from angering to farcical to angering again. Where is the accountability here?

Anyway, on to other pressing concerns: you wouldn’t happen to have any N Judah Chronicle/Streets of San Francisco-style shirts left for sale, do you? M or L? I’ve gotten really obsessed with Streets the last six months or so (DVR it on KOFY every day) and would love to get one.

Joel.

It is this kind of day-to-day unreliability that the Mayor, the MTA board (with some exceptions, to be sure) , and Supervisors often seem to be completely out of touch with when they talk all things Muni, particularly when it comes to how to pay for it.

The SF Appeal is reporting that more and more cuts and fare increases are coming, but that's because the Mayor and his MTA board are so barren of ideas, and so timid, they don't dare consider real ways to pay for things besides more parking tickets and more half-assed revenue sources. Nor do they bother to consider cutting down on absenteeism or knock out some wasteful 100k+ employees to cut pension and wage costs.

So long as we have people in there that are completely clueless about what it's like to have a job where you don't get paid no matter what, nothing's going to get better. And when you have idiots like the MTC vote for boondoggles over spending precious federal dollars on something of use to us in day to day life.

Why not commemorate this week of FAIL with a Muni Fail Whale Shirt, Mug, or Mousepad? From now until Sunday, you can get 15% off using the code ZAZZLEFORYOU at checkout. Bring your mug to work, spike your coffee with the booze or flavored syrup of your choice, and regale your coworkers with tales of fail.

December 28, 2009

Reader Mail: A Caution to Those Using Translink for Monthly Passes! Read Now!

Hope everyone out there had a nice holiday season. There were a few things I wanted to write about, but I really wanted to take a break from posting and focused on other things. However, I got this email from Reader Gary, who wanted to alert anyone who uses TransLink for their monthly pass. Read what he discovered as he made plans to renew for January:

Hello,

Not sure if this is of interest to your readers... if you think it is:

We all know the new Muni Fast Pass will go up to $60, or $70 with BART next month.

I contacted Translink to see which pass would "autoload" onto my Translink card next month: will it cost me $60 or $70? I was on pins and needles. Turns out it will be $70. Since I don't want this feature, I had to cancel my Muni Fast Pass autoload and then set up a new one with Muni only.

FYI.
Gary

Translink email snippet:

Thank you for you interest in our translink card program:

As of January your card will continue to be loaded with the same pass you currently have at this time which will be the Muni Fast Pass with Bart there will be a change in the price you are charged for that same pass as of January 2010, $70.00 for that pass. If you are wanting the Muni Only pass, You will need to go into your my translink account and modify your autoload changing your pass to the Muni Only for $ 60.00..

This is rather significant. Many people aren't even aware of the cost changes (thanks to the incompetence of many at City Hall), but this was the first I'd heard about the Translink Fastpass option, and this is rather significant. The MTC is too busy spending a million dollars on "rebranding" to actually, you know, tell people about what's up with their monthly passes. Of course, none of this would have been necessary if so many people at City Hall were so opposed to Muni in the first place and supported de-funding the system.

BTW, you'll be glad to know that every single Muni operator, regardless of competence, just got a nice $3000 bonus today. Wouldn't it have been awesome if the really good drivers, the ones who make your day a little better, got a bonus, and the ones that lollygag around acting like jerks didn't? Or even better, if the overpaid executives didn't get more raises and bonuses, and instead decided to act like public servants, not entitled people who think they government owes them a big paycheck?

November 30, 2009

Reader Mail: A Farewell to the Inner Sunset, and a Weird Muni Frak-Up on Thanksgiving Eve

Today in Reader Mail, we have two entries. The first is a link sent to me by Reader James, who was one of the original readers of the site since back in the day. He is moving to the East Bay, and wrote this wonderful ode to the Inner Sunset, as he departs after almost 10 years in the area. Ironically, he first lived on 8th, next door to the building I live in now!

Next up, Reader Joel sent in a live update of a scene of bizarro Muni behavoir on Thanksgiving Eve. I would have posted it sooner, but I wanted some time off and try and be as offline as possible for a few days. It still merits posting as it describes a rather ironic situation involving a Muni driver trying to flag down a bus with predictable results.

I think with the impending demolition of Muni (which our "Mayor" had the temerity to brag about as if this was a good thing), we'll be seeing a lot of this. Which makes me wonder how much longer I'll write about it, since this was supposed to be something other than the "let's document how badly our Mayor, MTA Board, legislators, Board of Supervisors, and Muni frakked up our city." Sadly, that's more often the case.

Is it just me or is this is insane?

I caught the 71 outbound tonight at Powell Street at 5:45pm-ish. Headed down Market Street. The bus pulls over at Van Ness and Market (yep, pulled over on the side of the road) and parked. As always, no information from the driver. (This is a bus, not a train. On the trains, you expect to be left totally in the dark about what's going on.... but a bus?)

After sitting there for a few minutes, passengers start yelling "What's going on driver?" The driver then tells us that his replacement didn't show up on time and we have to wait for him. Because there's no relief driver to take over the current driver's shift when he pulled up to Van Ness, we had to wait for him. A bunch of passengers just got off and started walking (you've seen this scene before, I'm sure.) Those of us whose destinations were beyond walking distance just sat there and continued waiting. A bus FULL of people -- trying to get home after work on the evening before Thanksgiving -- just sitting there on the side of the road, waiting. Waiting. Waiting. Are you kidding me?

Then the driver sees another 71 approaching. He announces to us that he's going to flag the oncoming 71 bus down. "Everyone off the bus, I'll have this next bus stop and you can get on it!" He grabs his flashlight and we all hustle off the bus immediately in order to catch the next bus! The driver gets in the street -- Market Street -- and starts flashing (with his light) at the oncoming bus to stop -- because it's not a normal bus stop (remember, we are just pulled off to the curb Northwest side of Market at Vaness. The driver of the other bus sees the driver in the street but refuses to stop -- just keeps on going. [This is my favorite part --> I then yell at our driver "Now how does it feel to flag a Muni bus down and have it ignore you and keep going?" That comment got a lot of laughs from all us passengers standing around our parked bus.]
(emphasis added. - .ed)
Attached are picture of us (passengers) standing around, and our "driver" sitting in his seat.

Is this as good as it gets?

Pathetic, I tell you.

Eesh. Needless to say, this is a time when no one wins. Notice how the fact a bus driver failed to show up for work, for God Knows What Reason, starts a domino effect that harms his fellow driver, harms Muni owners, and escalates, needlessly. I have to say, if we could just get a handle on unscheduled driver Failure To Appears, life would be better for folks. I don't know how we can continue to afford this, and drivers do not earn friend points when they pull this kind of crap, as it makes the whole system look bad.

Remember - you are the owner of Muni, not them, or any of those knuckleheads in office. Until they all realize that, nothing changes.

November 16, 2009

Reader Mail: When is "Not My Job" Potentially Fatal?

Yesterday I got this email from Reader C (who wishes to remain anonymous) about a rather troubling incident on the N that raises some serious questions about what a driver can and cannot do.

Dear NJC:

I was walking down Filmore just by the N Judah, when I witnessed an assult on a girl, she was punched pretty hard; I latter saw her face - it was not a nice sight. My cell phone was at home charging and the first person I saw was an N Judah driver getting into his car; he had a blue tooth headset so I knew he had a phone. I asked him to call 911 and he told me it was not his job, I was horrified, and I said you got to be kidding me, we got into a small argument and his supervisor came over. They both repeated it is not part of their job, I said words to the effect of "we live in a society and you have a moral obligation". To which they laughed at me; I left as the couple that hit the girl were getting further away, as it happens I found the police at Safeway and they arrested the pair.

I understand that MUNI have a hard job but am I wrong in thinking that there is a duty to call 911 when some one asks? What sort of people are they?

Anway as this happened 20 minutes ago I am still a little upset and so thought NJudah Chronicles would be the best people to email, was this a good representation of the drivers who take us to and from work everyday?

In a follow up email, he mentioned that the driver in question refused to give their number to him, although he noted the date and time, etc. He also noted that he's a 20 year owner/rider of Muni, and generally likes the service, but is rightfully annoyed when this kind of thing happens. (Muni, this is someone who's a longtime fan and this is how you treat 'em? Brilliant).

This kind of "not my job" attitude, in a situation where a 911 call would not have caused the driver any harm, just pisses people off, and rightfully so. If the driver was being assaulted or robbed, and asked one of us owner/riders to call 911, should we simply say "hey, not my job?"

I don't think so. In this case, it seems the police were able to handle it anyway, but again, would it have killed anyone to make a simple call.

Muni drivers need to take note - yes we understand you have a tough job, and yes we understand you're not all jerks. But so long as you generally treat the owner/riders (we are not customers, dammit) with this kind of disdain, watch what happens when upcoming budget cuts threaten your livelihood.

Those people you show such contempt for might return the favor. And no one wins in the end.

October 6, 2009

Reader Mail: Drama on the N

Yesterday I got this on-the-scene report from Reader Colin, but I couldn't post it right away as I was out of town in Sacramento for a conference, and trying to cut and paste a big email on an iPhone into Movable Type is just impossible.

So, here's his email. It's a rather interesting account of one day on the N when one of those "mean scary" strange people board the train (as opposed to harmless strange). Read on:

Hi Greg,

about an hour and a half ago (12:50 p.m., 10/5), I witnessed cops take down a half-naked guy with a ball & chain on the N @ 9th & Irving. here's how I saw it:

I was on the front car of the N sitting in my usual spot, fifth row from the back on the left-hand side. a woman was sitting in front of me chatting on her phone, between me and the side-facing bench for three, both of us facing backwards.

at 9th & Irving, a big burly gentleman wearing no shirt, no shoes, smelling of the street, and carrying some cardboard and a big black ball & chain sat himself in the middle seat of the side bench, right in my line of sight, about 4 or 5 feet away. after fidgeting with his cardboard and his ball & chain, he leans toward the chatting woman and leans back up, looking her up and down and flashing the sleaziest smile. then he takes his ball & chain and starts doing some tricep presses, and you can tell that thing is heavy from the vibrations it sends as he puts it down. some people are noticing, some people aren't reacting at all, and a father and son are sitting themselves down to my left, having come from the Academy of Sciences.

Continue reading "Reader Mail: Drama on the N" »

September 4, 2009

Reader Mail: Who Responds When YOU Write In About Muni Hell? Let's Find Out!

questionmark.jpgIt's no secret that these are bad times for Muni. It is also no secret that when you send in a complaint, it seems to go down the Memory Hole, lost to all time. Or does it? Reader M had some frustrating experiences with the N recently, and sent in a letter of complaint to the Mayor, Nathaniel Ford, Sup. Chu and Sup. Dufty. Now, it should come as no surprise that the Mayor's office was MIA, off campaigning for some other office. But take a look at the response he got from Muni, and from Sup. Dufty's office, and it's clear someone was paying attention.

This all comes on the heels of a major reorganization of Muni, one that several Muni watchdogs have suggested may actually improve accountability, and move functions around so that there's more coordination, and less of the "left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing" kind of confusion. We'll take a wait and see approach, but it's at least nice to see some attempt to make the agency a bit more functional.

More importantly, I think Reader M's experience with responsiveness is important to note. Mayor Newsom has checked out of being Mayor of San Francisco, and isn't going to be the source of anything of importance regarding Muni (aside from light and breezy press conferences to make him look good), and his MTA Board Members seem to take his lead, so I'm not too hopeful they'll be doing much either. But it is nice to see some folks at least try, and maybe that can start the long process of changing the culture of FAIL that seems to grip City Hall, in the City That Once Knew How.

Read the letter, and the response from Muni and Sup. Dufty's office after the jump:

Continue reading "Reader Mail: Who Responds When YOU Write In About Muni Hell? Let's Find Out!" »

July 22, 2009

More Reader Mail: Morning Delays And A Possible Answer at SF Appeal

This morning, Reader Sam noticed some delays, and an odd appearence of an N train at Church St. Station! Read on, and post something in the comments if you saw something similar early this morning:

This morning, I headed to the East Portal stop to catch the inbound N to 4th & King. When I got there (around 7:10), the Next Muni screen showed something like 50 & 55 minutes for the next arrival. Based on that, I ran down to the Church St Station to try to catch the T (my only other hope for getting to Caltrain). Much to my surprise, the next train to show up at the station was the N-Judah!

I thought my problems were over, since I should have had plenty of time to catch my 7:59 train, but then the train I was on sat between the 2nd & 4th street stops for over 10 minutes, and as far as I could see, there were a lot more trains stacked up at the turnaround. Another train came up 4th and turned onto King, following the route for the KT, but it's sign said N-Judah as well. Luckily, the driver was sympathetic to our plight, and he eventually lowered the stairs and opened the doors, giving us just enough time to run to the train.

I still don't know what caused all this commotion, so I'd love to hear if you get any more info.

The SF Appeal has this article about some short term changes MUNI is making while the NTSB investigates the crash.

UPDATE: And a review of Twitterpals's posts indicates it was another severed overhead wire at Church and Duboce.

Another one? Eesh.

July 21, 2009

Reader Mail: Some ZOMG Moments on the N Recently...

News about MUNI hasn't been much fun lately. What with the big accident on Saturday, the downed power line on Sunday, and so on, well, I think this is just the beginning of a wave of fail, especially since the State of California is going to go to broke transit agencies and take more money away, just so the Governor can power up his jacuzzi some more.

Monday I got this email from some Loyal Readers I know from elsewhere on the Internet who report a rather troubling situation at Carl and Cole:

Hi Greg...we just saw an incident on the N at Carl and Cole.

We were riding the N a few minutes ago and when the train came out of the tunnel the stairs didn't go down on the back car, 1505B. It arrived at 4:57 or thereabouts. ( I didn't catch the car number on the front car.) The doors opened with the stairs still up and a man jumped down to tell the driver. The driver seemed totally unaware of the situation, and when we contacted him to be let off the train (the doors had closed again) he said something to the effect of "Yeah, what do you want?" It took another minute to get the stairs down and the doors opened.

When the doors first opened, a lady fell out of the back car and injured her knee. The driver seemed not to care and he had no idea that anybody had fallen from the train, and the train drove off.

A few passers by helped the injured lady up and found her an ice pack from the Burger Meister, and we reported the situation to the next N that came out of the tunnel.

Would it kill people at MUNI to behave like civilized folks once in a while? Yes stressful job and all that but with the big pay, pension and lifetime employment guarantee, I'd say you should be willing to put up with a little more stress and be a little more courteous to the people who just saw fares rise to cover such expenses. Especially when someone gets hurt.

Next, we have an email I got this morning from another Loyal Reader, again relating an experience that just shows what happens when you teach people it's ok to be lawbreakers in San Francisco

Hi Here goes another one of many gripes about our beloved njudah... Last night about 8:30pm, my outbound njudah train starts to round the corner at 9th avenue in front of the donut shop,gets to judah and is stopped for almost an hour!

A "juvenile disturbance" that required a police report kept a full 3 car train stuck there and caused 3 more outgoing trains packed with people to sit there and wait with no reroute info-no clear announcements and of course no info from 311 system either.

Quite a chaotic scene at that busy corner as loads of people searching for any other way to get home and no cabs in sight. It was almost an hour before any cop showed up and yet that corner was full of police in their cars passing by the whole while. Im sorry to go on but it was a ridiculous incompetence on someone's part or dysfunctional protocol that led to such chaos for a monday night.

(Insert John Stewart headshake and hitting of head on desk here).

Remember, if you would like to send in an extended tale of woe or win, you can email me here at the site. We do not publish names or emails (although some people don't mind us printing a first name), and no matter who asks, we ain't telling no one your private info. Just be concise, polite, and as always, keep an eye out for the things that make living in SF awesome as well those that make it annoying!

July 7, 2009

Reader Mail: Where's An Airsick Bag When You Need It?

barf-bus.jpgYikes! Reader Jason emailed today with a tale of a techinicolor yawn gone horribly wrong on our beloved N Judah train. This reminded me of a time late at night when some guy barfed on the N, and the smell was so horrid, EVERYONE got off the train in the middle of the night at like Stanyan, and I just walked back to 12th Street.

What makes this email interesting is not just the subject matter, but how the author writes it up - it's very good!

I am a regular subscriber to the N-Judah Chronicles, and a regular passenger as well -- I commute from the Ocean Beach turnaround to Civic Center. While my experience today doesn't rank among the highest of hijinks, I thought I'd share my tale for your entertainment...

Inbound N-Judah, ~11:00 am:
I get on the 2nd car near the middle at the Ocean Beach turnaround. After a few blocks I notice what appears to be a large pile of chunky vomit up in the disabled/senior seating area at the front of the car. I am disgusted. As more people board the train, however, my disgust turns to amusement as I observe the reactions of unsuspecting boarders.

Well-dressed yuppie guy is the first. He goes to sit down in the seat, and sees the pile just as he's about to step. Acrobatic contortions ensue as he narrowly avoids a messy encounter. A stop or two later, a bearded hipster guy carrying a mostly-full 12-pack of beer sits down next to the pile. When he notices the puke, he makes a nasty wrinkled face and quickly moves across the aisle. An older woman spots it, rolls her eyes and keeps walking towards the rear of the car.

Before the West Portal tunnel, 2 guys get on. Beard spots the pile immediately and makes a beeline for another open seat. Glasses, on the other hand, is oblivious to the mess and plants his distressed Converse All-Star square in the middle of it. Squish! He tries to "clean off" his shoe by dragging the sole along the ground, which only spreads the pile out into a glistening pool. Nasty!!!

The driver comes back at the Church/Duboce stop, looks at the pool, and shakes his head. Shortly thereafter he asks all the passengers to move to the front car. He and some MUNI blue guys spend a couple minutes going in and out of the back car, and back and forth between car to car before finally the train heads into the tunnel and my story ends.

Another glorious day on the N-Judah...

Thanks Greg for your entertaining and informative blog, keep up the good work!

It seems Reader Jason was not the only one who saw this mess...this Tweet was just posted as well! Yikes!

To all on today's N-sorry your commute was so colorful today!

April 30, 2009

Reader Mail: More Unannounced Turnarounds on The N....

A bit belated, for sure, but too important to leave behind: Reader Warren wrote in earlier this week about unannounced turnarounds on the N, and CC'd a complaint he'd filed with MUNI. You'll recall that amidsta lot of hoopla we were told this wasn't going to happen anymore, but that didn't last long.

I urge you to read Reader Warren's complaint in full, because he followed it up with another email to me late tonight detailing yet another incident...by the same operator.

I'm documenting it here so it gets found by The Google and others and it becomes part of the permanent record of MUNI. Given that the mayoral-appointed MTA board has just voted to start the downward spiral of MUNI again, I figure this is a preview of coming attractions from our friends at the MTA.

Click through to see both letters, in their entirety. Now, wouldn't it be awesome if MUNI or someone acted on all of this? It would be. Doubtful anything will happen, but hey, documenting is the first part of the process...

Continue reading "Reader Mail: More Unannounced Turnarounds on The N...." »

February 8, 2009

Reader Mail and Links of Interest To Start the Week

I've been letting a number of links and emails pile up recently, so I thought I'd start the week on a happy note with some things I've found thanks to Google News Alerts and so on.

First, I realized that I never linked to the interview Brittney Gilbert did with me at KPIX's Eye on Blogs. (I'd written an entry but never hit "publish.") Anyway, if you're curious to the origins story for the site, etc. check it out.

The site also got a mention by by the good folks who created the citizen journalism site Spot.US in response to an article in the LA Times. (Note to Spot.us - I actually took all the journalism classes in school, and have been writing in one form or another since I was 14, with only a short time while I lived in Seattle when I didn't.)

And, I also found a link to a local blogger who'd made some hilarious T-Shirts spoofing MUNI Adama for President site myself). This de facto re-writing of the fair use rules by a couple of hack attorneys sucks - esp. since this blogger has done nothing wrong. (I encouraged him to try his luck at Zazzle.com instead).

And now, some mail. First, Reader Becca writes:

I am a native NYer who can tell you every square inch of the NYC Subway system, where to stand to be near the right set of stairs, etc. All of that is useless now that I am a proud new resident of San Francisco. I can appreciate the confusion visitors and new residents to NYC feel about our subway system because I was so confused and lost about public transit here in San Francisco.

I live near UCSF and the N-Judah is my line. While searching the net for the San Francisco public transportation Rosetta Stone I found your site and have been enjoying it many times per week since I found it last October.

Whenever I see something unusual happen in the Sunset or with the N-Judah I go to your site first because I know I will find pictures and an entertaining story that will tell me all about what I just saw.

I just wanted to take a moment to say Thank You for your site! It's a great place that I enjoy.

After having a rather depressing week, and having a lot of frustration upgrading the site, it was nice to get something like this. Thanks!

Next, we get an "on the N" report from Reader Johnny, of the funcheapsf.com site. He writes:

so i was commuting home today on the N and i'm listening to these two girls blab blab blab...

one of them is complaining about how long it took the day or two before to get home on the N and how they really should train the drivers to also be mechanics as well so they don't have to wait when there's a problem. she said "oh, and like i checked out sfgate and they didn't have anything about the accident.. they suck! but of course that blog.. the N..... uh..... " and the other one says "N Judah Chronicles?" quizzingly "Yea.. the n judah chronicles!! like he had something on it like immediately" " i love that site" and then a bunch of blabbing about her boyfriends haircut or something lame like that.

just thought i'd pass that along in case your ears were burning.. people were talking about you!
keep up the good work!

Wow! It is nice to have a hobby that can boost one's spirits when they need it most....thanks!

December 18, 2008

Random News, Reader Mail and Obama's Transportation Nominee...Oh My!

Posting from now through the end of the year is going to be light because I need a bit of a break, and I need to do some work to upgrade the system that runs the blog, so I can also update the look and mechanics of the site as well. However, when there's breaking news or reader mail, we'll be sure to post.

First, don't forget our local shopping guide for any last minute gifts you may need. And, don't forget you can still order our "N is Near" and "80th Anniversary of the N" shirts from Zazzle.com at any time. Since they're located in Redwood City, shipping to most places in California is rather speedy.

Next, many people have asked me what I think of President Elect Obama's choice of Rep. Ray LaHood as Transportation Secretary. He never appeared on any of the "short lists" for who President-Elect Obama might appoint, and frankly I barely heard of him before myself, so to be honest, the answer is "we'll see." (And what is up with all this bicycle stuff and LaHood? I mean, yeah, bikes are great, but we will never see the streets filled with bikes, a la Beijing circa 1978, despite the dearest of hopes of bike advocates.)

True, he isn't part of the "anything not a car is Satan's doing" caucus in Congress, but beyond that, it seems as if they had to appoint someone with an "R" next to their name to the Cabinet, and just as President Bush appointed Democratic Congressman Norm Mineta, it seems Obama's continuing this new tradition. The good people at Streetsblog have a roundup of reactions as well.

And now, for some Reader Mail. Reader Karena writes this morning with some interesting news:

Hi Greg, I was taking the N to work yesterday morning and noticed that a MUNI employee was selling transfers. It was probably the quickest boarding at that stop I'd ever witnessed. My train was packed this morning and I couldn't look out the window to see if he was there again. Is someone at MUNI finally listening?

I think they are. Not everyone who rides MUNI is going to buy a pass or have a Translink card handy - there are plenty of people who are only casual users of MUNI and try as we might, there will always be someone paying cash. MUNI's Nate Ford noted at the meeting a few weeks ago that he'd personally observed just how crowded Carl/Cole can get with people trying to pay a fare during the day.

Carl / Cole and UCSF and Irving / 9th get a lot of casual riders, and that's where inevitably you get a bit of a wait. UCSF has patients and visitors whose number of visits don't warrant a pass (or are coming from out of town), and Irving and 9th is getting a lot more people due to the Academy and the park's events. Since we're not going to be able to fund a comprehensive solution and/or make people buy Translink under penalty of death, this is probably the best solution we'll get in the near future.

October 1, 2008

UPDATED: Derailment at Church and Duboce! Use Alternate Routes Instead!

I just got a short email from one of our Loyal Readers who spotted a derailment of a MUNI LRV at Church and Duboce just 5 minutes ago (10:51am). I'm at home working so I can't see for myself...if any Loyal Readers have eyewitness accounts or photos, send 'em in and we'll post them (with credit given, of course!).

Another Loyal Reader, Brendan, posted this photo on TwitPic of the accident. Brendan posted on Twitter:

MUNI is handling this situation quite gracefully. Employees are out directing riders from Church to awaiting OB trains at Duboce.

Be sure to take alternate routes while this is fixed and stay safe out there! It seems the urgency of fixing up Duboce and Church's rail lines and so on is more urgent than we thought. Too bad those big cuts from the state will delay maintenance projects like this.

UPDATE: More reports from the scene...Reader Thomas writes:

Greg, I don't know if this is the way you normally get reports of problems, but I just got off the N at Duboce (being told to take alternative transportation to downtown), to see 3 muni white trucks surrounding a broken train parked across the tracks from the downtown entrance track to the entry to the parking yard there.

Ns and Js were turning around at Duboce above ground, and Ns were making the trip to Casto to turn around once in the tunnel.

As ever, 511.org and the nextbus predictions gave no info on the problems...

Fail again.

UPDATE 2 (Electric Boogaloo): The Muni TroubleAlert is now alerting riders to the accident.

UPDATE 3: KGO TV news has some coverage, and SFist is covering it too, along with Curbed.

UPDATE 4: Two Loyal Readers provide some pictures and commentary of their experience. First, Reader David:

Hi,

Thanks for serving all us (often disgruntled) N riders. I was on the N right behind the one that derailed -- at about 10:15am this morning.

I snapped an iPhone pic and i was running to Church St. Station. It's attached.

If I wasn't late for work, I would have gotten a closer pic (this photo doesn't do it justice). At the time it happened, the operator of the train I was on said "we'll be here for just a few minutes; if you're in a rush, take the subway." They may be handling the situation well now, but when it happened, as usual, there was zero communication or awareness of what was going on. When I got to Church street, scores of people were leaving the station with the impression there was no inbound service from there either (there was in fact in-bound service).

It looked like the train was coming either outbound from the subway or from the storage track on the side. I don't know if it was switching tracks, but it had was PAST the inbound track and had hit the railing. The front was open, broken glass, almost off its hinges. I'm hoping it was an out of service train, because it would have been pretty bad for people on the train.

And here's his photo:

photo.jpg

Another "Reader David," David Stafford, also submits these photos

em_1.jpg

UPDATE 5: Reader Michael sends us this note with more developments:

As of 2:15 pm, the derailed 2-car train is still across both tracks and the tunnel is closed.

There is one J train running as a Castro shuttle. There are 4 or so 2-car N-Judah trains running between Caltrain and Castro. However, some drivers will not let you stay on the train between Church and Castro (which is my stop). Grrrrr.

There is a lot of confusion at Church Station. Unfortunately, some people who only speak Chinese are not understanding the announcements. While there seem to be a number of operators, fare inspectors, etc, none seems to be able to help those who don’t understand English go upstairs and walk to Duboce to catch the outbound N trains.

I think today illustrates how many people only know the one or two routes that they take regularly. Many people seem to have absolutely no idea where Church Station is in relation to the N Judah line.

Meanwhile, Reader Joseph (who writes the awesome MUNI Grouch blog) has been twittering pictures at his twitter account and has an N Judah car in the Church Street Station!

FINAL UPDATE: The Chronicle reports the N is back to its old self - but I would imagine that there's still going to be some delays...good luck with the commute home, everyone! Fingers crossed for a safe ride for everyone!

August 11, 2008

Reader Mail: Catch Up Day - Safety, Good News, and More - UPDATED

With all the attention the site has received recently, there's been a lot more Reader Mail coming in, and it's easy for me to sometimes lose track of it during a busy week. Here now we catch up with readers writing in about MUNI safety, some good news from the N line, and more...

First, Reader Tracy writes, with a moment of Zen goodness on the N worth writing about:

Was on inbound N Wednesday (July 30) standing up front. Operator AA male, skinny, 50-something. A large,elderly babushka Russian lady boards at 9th, gleeful on seeing operator, "so good to see you" and he hops up, opens door and gives her a hug while other passengers board behind her. Delay, none. Atmosphere wonderful. Kinda reminds me of the 60s when the operators really knew their passengers.

Once again, a good operator, who deserves more than a gold star. Maybe we should give 'em out ourselves since it's not like MUNI seems to want to reward the good guys and gals of MUNI?

Next, a reader who wishes to remain anonymous writes in with another incident about Good Citizen Service, in this case a late night incident:

Hi, I've been a longtime reader, really enjoying the anecdotes, but never really felt I had much to contribute until now.

Last week I had an amazing experience on the N. I even called 311 to report it.

At about 10pm on Thursday I was waiting at Embarcadero station when I realized I wanted to be closer to the head of the train when it came. I got up from my seat and walked towards where the front of the train would pull in. I notice that a guy who had been siting near me on the round bench got up and moved as well, standing near and slightly behind me.

On the N he sat near me in the middle of the train. I couldn't be sure if he was trying to follow me (Im a petite 22yo female), but the fact that he continually glanced in my direction over his paper did not make me feel comfortable. About 2 blocks from my stop in the outer Sunset I walked up to the driver of the train and ducked my head into his window. I told him there was a man I didn't feel comfortable near and was wondering if he could possibly help me make sure that this guy didn't get off the train behind me. The driver, without hesitation and further explanation from me said "where do you want to be let off child?"

I asked if I could be dropped off one block between my stop and the one after it, so I would be closer to my house. Sure enough, in between the two stops the driver paused the vehicle without notice and opened the front door only, allowing me to exit. As I turned around on the sidewalk to wave to the driver I noticed the man had stood up and started walking. I'll never know if he was trying to follow me or not, but that driver was my best friend that night.

I called 311 that night and noted the time and direction of the train, but I cannot thank that driver enough for his kindness. It is that safety which makes me so proud to live in this community.

These days you can never be too safe. Maybe the person was a stabby stalker, or maybe just coincidentally leaving at the same time. Either way, a high five to the driver who helped a passenger late at night!

There's more after the jump about safety and fare jumping, please continue!

Continue reading "Reader Mail: Catch Up Day - Safety, Good News, and More - UPDATED" »

August 8, 2008

Reader Mail II: An Injured Passenger Is Insulted by a MUNI Driver...

Loyal Reader Jamison, who's been checking in on the NJC since way way back in the day, sends in this tale of woe which speaks to many of the issues we discussed earlier this week. Jamison, who was recovering from an injury that left him in a cast, sent this report in to MUNI and CC'd the N Judah Chronicles:

vehicle: 1544 run: 095 line: T-Third Street direction: Downtown

---

Climbing the ramp to the board the T, which takes some time with my foot in a cast, the driver closed the door and pulled up a few feet.

When I got to the door and pressed the open button it did not respond, as I started to walk away to see about the next N-Judah the driver opened only the front door and I boarded. I proceeded towards the only available seat halfway back and the driver got on the PA system to say in a very condescending tone "You're welcome".

Drivers should not berate passengers for the simple act of boarding a vehicle.

If her goal was to publicly embarrass me in front of a train full of people, I think the other riders had more sympathy towards me (as I was limping my way through the train) rather than the driver who made the ever-so-difficult and demanding out-of-their-way act of opening a door for a passenger at a station.

Wow. Class act, that driver. You really have to wonder how it is an institution can get so infected with a failure mentality, coupled with a sense of entitlement that mandates they get paid big pay with no expectation of doing their jobs properly. These kinds of incidents blot out the many GOOD drivers who do their job and get no reward.

Bad drivers, however, have Local 250A's leadership backing them up. It's almost like an obsession they have with rewarding bad drivers and screwing over the good ones. Maybe Local 250A needs a change in leadership.

Reader Mail: MUNI Fail in Progress?

Reader Alex sent us this note along with a shot of the MUNI tunnel map indicating a potentially failwhale day right now:

IMO, worth posting on the N Judah Chronicles... there's a pretty spectacular frakup in the subway happening now. Pretty serious inbound delays. Trains are running ~15mph from West Portal. Don't know if they're coming in from the Duboce Portal.

Sigh.

But at least they have their track irons back.


Anyone else seeing this? I need to leave the house and go downtown so any advice would be good!

August 2, 2008

Reader Mail Redux: Pain and Suffering on the N, and A Possible Reason Why

Everyone's been noticing some bizarre behavior, on the N, and elsewhere on MUNI lately, in particular, bunched up trains and buses. Those of you who follow me on The Twitter know that I myself on the way to a sales call was stuck on an N as it was bunched up at Church and Duboce, and naturally, they refused to let us off the train or tell us what was up. Sigh.

First off, Reader Pat writes in with some tales of N Judah woe, as he starts commuting downtown via the N these days:

Hey Greg. Pat here. Hope you're doing well.

Been taking the N-Judah downtown to some freelance jobs lately. 3 out 5 mornings last week had me waiting over 12 minutes for a train to come by, at peak morning rush (around 8:20 am). Naturally the trains were packed by the time they reached me at UCSF.

Then we waited at the Church/Duboce stop for another 10-15 minnutes. Driver of the train didn't have the courtesy to say a single word about the delays. I was standing next to some middle-aged woman who was on her way to a doctor downtown, and was in a lot of pain. She finally got off the train and hailed a cab. The inadequacy of trains running on that line is ludicrous. I even decided to drive down and pay for parking a few times, just to avoid dealing with the awful hassle that is traveling on the Judah during peak times.

Ouch! Driving downtown is pricey, what with the tickets going up in price and parking costing what it does. I know that thanks to MUNI fails of late, I've been resorting to pricey cabs. Ugh. But when one has to get somewhere for work and failwhale behavior isn't an option (as it seems to be at the Board of Supervisors or MUNI)

Now, the next email may be a bit controversial, as I cannot verify exactly who this person is. I can say, however, that some of the things mentioned, such as removing track irons from the trains, has been reported to me seperately, so in the spirit of open discussion, I shall print this message and let the chips fall where they may:

Continue reading "Reader Mail Redux: Pain and Suffering on the N, and A Possible Reason Why" »

July 15, 2008

Reader Mail: A MUNI Ride With a Treat

Got this note from Reader Paul the other day regarding a rather amusing/disturbing commute on the N one crowded day:

Hi Greg,

I feel bad complaining because I usually have good luck on the N. That and I live close enough to work -- 3 stops from Church to Powell -- that my ride can be as little as six minutes.

Anyway, I'm on the way home this evening, and the train makes an unusually long stop at the handicap ramp. The driver peeks out the door and speaks to the attendant, who disappears inside and returns with ... wait for it ... a bottle of Snapple, which he hands to the driver.

The train is packed and I don't know what the capacity of a 2-car train is, but I'd guess about 250 people? So we all waited while he got Snapple. All told probably 45 seconds to a minute, but if you multiply that by the number of riders on the train, it becomes quite an expensive beverage.

Thanks, keep up the good work, and best of luck balancing a day job and keeping you blog up to date!

Drivers are entitled to breaks and such, it seems that would be the best time to do such things. I have been on a few 30 Stocktons that have made pit stops and left the bus running, unattended while someone picks up lunch. Seems a bit odd.

June 26, 2008

Reader Mail: Are the L/M and J Trains Going to Caltrain Nowadays?

Reader Richa writes with a question regarding the L/M and J trains and Caltrain. I don't use Caltrain as much as I used to so I personally had not noticed this:

I've noticed that in the mornings for the past few weeks, the J, L and M Muni metro lines have been going all the way out to the 4th and King Caltrain station. This is great, but I can find no information anywhere whether this is here to stay, if it will only be in the mornings, or what. I'm wondering whether you or any of your readers might know about this.

Thanks,
Richa

The lines are open to Loyal Readers, anyone from MUNI, or anyone in the know. Did MUNI make a change and just not tell us? Or is it simply a case of mis-labeled trains? Post your answers in the comments section!

April 30, 2008

Reader Mail: A Suggestion To Pass The Time On A Crowded "N"

Reader Mark sends us this dispatch from the Sunset, expressing frustration with our Beloved MUNI, and a suggestion to pass the time whilst on a crowded train home:

Hey, I sometimes read your website, but have to say it's been a while. I am a 6 year resident of the sunset and for the first 4 I rode the N Judah back and forth to work. Then, 2 years ago I discovered the 16X. Since I live at 17th and lincoln, i take this in the AM and take the N home.

Now, I am done with Muni. I am buying a bike and will use that as my mode of transportation. Still, I have a suggestion for your site. It boggles my mind how Muni is run...the most heavily ridden metro is always short changed. How can they not fix this? Yet routinely i see 2 K's back to back or 3 M's as I saw one day! What a waste...

So here's the suggestion to see if this gets them going: Encourage riders to capture how stuffed the N gets with cell phone videos. I honestly think none of the officials ride muni. (Newsom, BoS, or the Muni head). So they must be out of touch to the realities of it...so I say let's show them. (ok, i am not going to be one as I have given up...but i have hope and sympathy for those still going to use muni)

Perhaps this might be a fun spring project for all of us on the N, or any MUNI bus or train. Take your cellphone pics, videos, etc. of your crowded-like-sardines commute, and join the MUNI Follies group on Flickr. As submissions are sent in, we'll find particularly entertaining ones and feature them here on the site. Thanks for the suggestion, Reader Mark!

January 16, 2008

Reader Mail: Another Fatality on the N Judah

Holy guac! We just got word of news about another potential fatality on the N-Judah line this evening. Reader Jeff writes:

Greg:

News helicopters are overhead right now. Judah is closed off 28th Ave - 30th Ave. I just got home, but it looks like it happened about an hour ago.

My neighbor tells me someone was trying to get onto the train and got caught somehow. Passengers tried to alert the driver, but the train didn't stop in time.

I'm guessing the accident will be on the 11:00 news with all the details.

jeff

I got home around 8pm and missed this incident. This sounds pretty bad, though, so if anyone has info or details, please feel free to post in the comments. I'll be up for a few more hours to post details as they come in.

UPDATE: Bay City News has the story so far....

UPDATE 2:, The Chronicle has more information about the incident as well. This is so depressing.

Continue reading "Reader Mail: Another Fatality on the N Judah" »

December 13, 2007

Early Morning Crash On the N-Judah: Readers Offer Eyewitness Accounts of Tragedy

This morning we had an unfortunate accident on the N-Judah at 7th and Irving today. Several readers posted comments or emails detailing what they saw....for example, Reader Lauren writes:

I was on the inbound train that arrived at the scene of the accident within minutes of it happening. It looked like a white pick-up trunk ran almost straight into the outbound train. There were injuries: I think it was the passenger of the pick-up. The shuttle buses were slow to arrive, so I walked down to Lincoln to try to catch the 71. The buses were so packed that some went by without picking us up. So, it took me about an extra hour to get to work today.

Reader Karolyn also sent in a comment:

This morning at appox 7:25am I arrived at 7th & Irving street saw 2 trains at 9th & Irving there was an outbound & inbound stuck at the corner people were hanging out of the door and the trains were not able to move in either direction. I decided to walk towards 9th but didnot see the car that was apparently hit since I needed to get to work. Decided to catch the 43 or 44 to Forrest Hill Station and there was another inbound N at 9th & Judah the conductor must have informed the people of the accident. Just another messed up day on the N Judah line. So sad when it is something your use to.

If anyone else has cell phone camera photos or other information, please send it in!

November 15, 2007

Reader News Alert: Accident at 9th and Irving Between N-Judah and a Honda?

Reader Patrick sent me an email about an hour ago indicating that there's been a collision between a Honda car and an N-Train at 9th and Irving. As I'm at work I can't just run down the street and check this out, so if any other Loyal Readers have any info to report, please do so in the comments section!

For those of you just joining us, I made safety at the 9th/Irving and 9th/Judah intersections a mini crusade, with mixed results. Any pedestrian, motorist, or mass transit rider, however can witness a host of near-misses and other problems at these intersections on a daily basis.

Maybe this accident will move along MUNI's folks, flush with Measure A money and whatnot, to get off their backsides and make good on a promise they were supposed to have fulfilled almost a year ago!

November 13, 2007

Reader Mail: A MUNI Driver and Our Fellow Citizens Come to the Rescue!

Reader Alexandra writes in with an interesting tale of a blocked entrance at Fillmore and Duboce, a "get it done" MUNI driver, some helpful passengers, and a crabby cabbie. Read on:

On the 9th around 1440 I was on my typical daily commute home...All of a sudden on filmore & duboce the J halts-there's a truck blocking the tracks...driiinnnng drinnnng nothing happens ...by now there's a taxi on the right site blaring his horn.

So the driver gets out with his coffee and it turns out that the truck broke down. The driver then announces over the intercom that he needs some guys to help push the truck out of the way. Oh..and he also tells the obnoxious driver politely to get his ass out of the taxi and help push.

What followed was just this great comical relief. The driver with his coffee, his back against the truck pushing with several guys from the J-Church and then the disgruntled taxi driver. About a second after they push the truck out of the way the muni help truck roars in....and the driver simply tells them that its all done.

When GTD comes to MUNI, everyone wins!

Reader Mail: An SF Native in Beijing Sends Us A Note About BRT and Subways in China!

This morning I got an email all the way from Beijing, China, courtesy of Reader Luke, who sends us a note and a video about BRT in China. Perhaps San Francisco might learn a little about BRT and find ways to improve the 38 (although I don't know we'd want to copy their lack of access for our disabled and senior citizens):

Hi,

I am a Bay Area native and now I live in Beijing and do a video blog here. Our latest piece is about transport in Beijing and includes an extended portion about BRT in Beijing and its spread across China.
Beijing is building one of the world's bigger BRT networks and there are twenty cities in China with BRT in various stages of planning and construction.

Please check out the video on the front page of sexybeijing.tv . Also
click through to the archives to check out some episodes of our
youtube hit "Sexy Beijing", about an American girl looking for a
Chinese husband in Beijing.(Starring the daughter of UCLA professor
Peter Loewenberg)

And here's the video courtesy of YouTube. Thanks, Luke!

October 9, 2007

Reader Mail: More CC's of Letters to Mayor Newsom, Board of Supervisors...

UPDATE: MUNI is inventing new ways to blow it - now the N line is experiencing it's own, separate-from-this-morning's-blowout problems and apparently we can expect significant delays today.

Sigh...

UPDATE 2: According to the Chron the N was allegedly back up and running at 2pm. Please post your experiences in the comments this afternoon!

Anyway, back to our regularly scheduled posting:

This morning's kerfuffle of power lines made for some delayed commutes. However, it is also clear that there has been a new wave of N Judah Follies befalling our fellow citizens on the way to work. I noticed over the weekend, where we had huge crowds of people taking the N to Golden Gate Park, and such, that MUNI decided it was a good idea to one one car trains.

On one of the busiest weekends at Golden Gate Park.

After they tell everyone to "take transit" to make life easier.

Hmm.

(To be fair, those folks I know who drove to the big festival in the park said that parking was horrid, but still, that is kind of like saying "Oh I only got burned a little by the oncoming lava flow" or something)

Onward. Reader Karen sent a letter to Mayor Newsom, Supervisor Sean Elsbernd and CC'd a copy to the site with her tale of horror:

Mr. Mayor and Mr. Elsbernd, My intent is not to bore you with the details of my commute, but to illustrate MUNI's failure to serve San Francisco. I had a 9:00AM meeting this morning, so I left the house at **7:45**. I walk down to Judah and 15th, and there are at least three dozen people waiting for the train--normally there are ten.

A train finally arrives at 8:15, and it is so packed that it doesn't even stop. I tap out an email on my Blackberry to colleagues to let them know I might be late.

Another train finally arrives at 8:35, and even though it's packed, I have no choice but to get on the train.

(By this time, more than a dozen EMPTY trains have been traveling westbound, the opposite direction.)

At 8:55, I send another email to colleagues that I am going to miss the meeting--because the train is stuck at Duboce Park while the conductor tries to get the stairs to go down. No word from the conductor.

At 9:15, the train has been at the Civic Center for 5 minutes, waiting to pull away from the station. No word from the conductor.

At **9:25**, I am finally at the Embarcadero station. I've missed my meeting.

Yes, there were downed power lines in the tunnel. But this experience was clearly the result of MUNI employees not showing up for their routes.

It would be great if this were an isolated incident, but there is a reason I give myself 75 minutes to get downtown everyday.

In the past two months I've been working in Chicago and Boston. None of my colleagues in those offices complain about train service, nor are they routinely late for meetings because of mass transit.

The MUNI problem is not an easy one to fix. But have you experienced what San Francisco residents face on a regular basis? MUNI administrators can high-five themselves over 72% on-time performance all they want. But when you're waiting for the 28% of trains that don't show up, a mild-mannered cubicle dweller like myself feels compelled to write to the Mayor and her Supervisor.

Best,

Karena

Yikes! Now, the sad part is that of late, this has been getting worse, just as they announce the "on time rates" but worse, on the eve of an election where MUNI is asking folks to give them more money and promise to fix problems.

I think it is also high time that union folks, who keep telling us we need to pay public employees more and more salary and pensions, what they propose to do to fix problems like these since they've already pocket vetoed any real reform of the hiring rules.

Union labor is supposed to mean professional, quality work, guys - if you're going to tinker with Measure A to protect your big bucks, you better show us you can also provide workable solutions to this whole "not showing to work" thing. Otherwise, get out of our way!

The brave people from the Fix MUNI Yes on A campaign were out in force on Saturday along the N, and I say they are brave only because I am sure they had to listen to a lot of what regular citizens have to say. Which is good - but I just hope it translates into some action, too.

Reader Alex, in response to last week's discussion of problems on the N provides this insight into how to express one's frustrations to 311.

Oy. When the train turns around early: CALL 311. I'm looking at a small stack of PSRs that I've called in. Despite what I had hoped were fairly clear complaints to the 311 operators the reports have gotten filed in three different categories: 177 - Running wrong destination sign, 114 - Switchback, or 106 - Insufficient service schedule.

The one marked as "114 - Switchback" is also marked "actionable". The others are not. Make sure you indicate that the complaint is indeed an issue of insufficient service (or unnecessary switchback).

They're doing the same damn things on the L, turning the trains around, usually without any warning. Thus it is nearly impossible to get beyond 22nd Ave. Perhaps it's naive to think that feedback will change
anything, but it's a start.

Reader Alex makes a good point. Perhaps the complaints alone may not do enough, but if there's enough of them on record and some enterprising local reporter (what few we have left) decides to go investigate, they'll find a treasure trove of complaints that someone can be cornered on during a TV broadcast or in an investigative piece in print later on. Immediate remedies are few, it seems, but at least it is worth a shot.

October 5, 2007

Reader Mail: When Statistics and Life Collide On the N Judah Line

The other day I got the following CC'd email, orginally sent to Mayor Newsom, regarding what sounds like a terrible ride on the N-Judah from Reader Stephen:


Dear Mayor Newsom,

I'm writing to draw your attention to the atrocious inability of the San Francisco Municipal Railway to transport people in a timely manner. I live at 45th Avenue and Kirkham St. Today, I left my house at 9:35 a.m. I arrived at the 46th Ave. N-Judah stop at 9:37 a.m. I got off the train at Montgomery station at 10:56 a.m. That's almost 80 minutes to go a little over 7 miles. Should the citizens of the City be required to pay $1.50 for public transit that is slower than travel on foot?

Now, it is not an instantaneous connection from the Outer Sunset to downtown, but this is ridiculous. Combined with the ongoing issue of random turnarounds at 19th, and you can see why residents of the Outer Sunset can get quite skeptical when they hear talk of fixing MUNI.

It's also an example of how statistics don't always tell a story. In today's Examiner, reporter David Smith tells us some new statistics regarding various MUNI routes. Here we learn that the N is growing in number of passengers, but has an ontime rating of 72% (down 3% from the previous year).

Here's where stats alone don't always help - sure, one can say that a route that's 72 or even 75% on time is "good" and all. However, if a rider who really needs to get somewhere on time, such as Reader Stephen, gets stuck with the Ride from Hell, it really doesn't matter anymore if on paper the line is doing great. People don't need to be on time to work, school, the store, or a doctor's appointment only 72% of the time - and they certainly don't get rewarded for being late.

Now, there are times when even the best run system can run into problems not its own (double parked cars and trucks that refuse to move, accidents blocking the train, etc.) But is it realistic to expect that every delay is totally beyond human control all the time? Probably not.

This, in a sense, is the biggest challenge those trying to pass the MUNI reform amendment face as they try to tell voters that Measure A will do something good to make things better in the long run. While there's no doubt that most people when asked if they want "MUNI fixed" they'll say yes, people in San Francisco are also resigned to more than a little cynicism when it comes to the believability of a proposed "fix" on the ballot.

I would suggest that people cannot expect Someone Else, or Them to fix any problems, be they MUNI or otherwise, or assume that The Big Plan is going to be any sort of cure-all alone. It's only if people decide that they deserve better, and are willing to do something, anything to let Them know that we expect better, as Reader Stephen has done. Likewise, it is only going to be as a result of Everyone holding the folks who created Measure A accountable for the promises is it likely to do what it claims it will do.

San Francisco has the potential to be a truly extraordinary place to live and have a functional, decently run government and transit system. Cynics can belittle such an ideal all the like, but then again, cynicism never solved any problems. Getting off one's backside and doing what they can, however, did.

It certainly costs a lot to live here (and anyone paying property and business taxes are paying a fortune!). Isn't it about time people got their money's worth from the folks in charge? And isn't it time they started acting on that, instead of just more talk?

September 30, 2007

Wanna Corner Mayor Newsom on MUNI? Come to the Rescue Muni Fun Fest on October 1st!

Tired of bitching about MUNI on my blog? Sure you are.

Wanna say something to the Big Guy who will be appointing the new MTA Commissioners now that he's asked for the resignations of the folks he hired on that board?

Or, do you just wanna to tell the guy how happy you are about the current state of MUNI management?

Well, you have a chance. Go, my friends, to the "Rescue Muni" meeting on October 1st (AKA tomorrow) and ask the most probing, nonpartisan questions you can think of.

Remember, no one serious is challenging this guys for his actual job, so your unexpected questions will be of value. Remember also that during the Mayor's "problems" about that whole "you know" thing earlier this year was dismissed by Rescue Muni because he appointed such good folks to the MTA board.

People who he now wants to fire.

Ummmm....Yeah.

For now, let's take a look at a YouTube Video of an N-Judah Chronicles neighbor who has some things to say about MUNI. Perhaps in his inimitable policy deliberations, Mr. Newsom might pay attention to what us mere citizen/taxpayer/riders have to say about what's going on with MUNI....

September 7, 2007

Reader Mail: Tracking Scary Weirdos on the N, and A Plea to Stop Turnarounds at 19th Avenue...

This week's Reader Mail has some tales of woe, and a bit of hope for riders of our Mighty N Judah. First, Reader Jason writes about a sitaution he and his wife have encountered concerning a person who's behavior on the N has caused some disruption to service, and offers this tale as a public service to fellow riders of the N:

Dear N Judah Chronicles:

I am writing you today to tell you about a guy my wife and I have named "Creepy Pervert Guy on the N Judah." His method is to hop on super packed morning rush-hour N-Judahs, inbound, usually boarding anywhere between Stanyan St. and Church St stops. He only rides when the train is super packed; i.e.. Standing room only. He may ride at other times, but we have only witnessed him from 7:30am-9:30am weekdays.

He will enter a train car, find a woman, and hold onto the rail. It's hard to tell from this picture but he will grab the rail much further ahead from where he is standing. This allows him to smother the woman in front of him. What you don't see is that he is pushing his...Ahem... into the woman in front of him, below the line of view of anyone else on the train.

When he tires of this, he will find another woman on the same train. I've also seen him hop off the current train car at a stop and run, not walk, to a train car behind the one he was on and hop on before the train takes off (I'm assuming to find a new crop of women to do this to that are unsuspecting).

My wife and I have been tracking this pervert for a few months now. My wife noticed this guy one day when he did this very same thing to her. It was extremely uncomfortable for her, and when it happened a second time she KNEW something was up. One day as we were taking the train together, wouldn't you know it, there he was waiting for the train at our stop.

Now I knew who this guy was. We made a pact to try to get a photo of him in the act and spread it out there. Before we could do that, we really needed to know that this wasn't a figment of our imagination or sick coincidence. We had to know that his intentions were such before we start some sort of a smear campaign on anyone.

You have to understand that the way he does this is so under the radar that merely calling him out wouldn't be very effective. We had to know from others that this was in fact happening.

One morning he boarded and my wife noticed he was doing it AGAIN. She ran up and told the driver about the man. The driver then stopped the train from moving. He made an announcement to the train. He pulled into Van Ness, and unfortunately creepy guy hopped off. By the time the train got to Civic Center, Muni police were waiting to board and look for the guy who unfortunately was no longer on board.

What sealed the deal for us was one morning a few weeks ago when I hopped onto the N-Judah to go to work in the morning. I got a nice spot in between two trains so I could lean. Wouldn't you know it, he boarded the train in front of me. From my vantage point, I could tell that he had picked a lady and was straddling her. I couldn't see her face, I could sure as hell see his.

Continue reading "Reader Mail: Tracking Scary Weirdos on the N, and A Plea to Stop Turnarounds at 19th Avenue..." »

June 30, 2007

A Quick Update From the Mayor's "Town Meeting on MUNI" AKA Fake Question Time and a WTF on NextMuni

Loyal Readers: I attended the Mayor's "Town Hall Meeting" (aka what some people call Fake Question Time) this morning. I will write more later, but for now, I have posted some short raw videos at my YouTube account - the video quality is cameraphone-esque, but the audio is OK. I also have a few photos up at my Flickr account"

There were many ironies surrounding this meeting - from the chaotic traffic mess on Stockton Street I ran into, trying to get back to Market St. to the following email from Reader Melissa, regarding some oddities with NextMuni. Here's what she had to say:

Hi,

Nasty surprise on a Saturday morning: arrival times at Carl & Cole are no longer available on NextBus.com

I had come to depend on real time predictions at my stop in order to deal with over crowded and delayed trains. If there was a gap of more than 10 minutes between trains, I knew the train would be too crowded to board by the time it reached Carl & Cole. I could take a bus, a taxi, or call into my 9am meetings from home.

After talking with a 311 rep this morning, I learned that NextBus, not Muni, decides which stops to use when reporting data.

If anyone else is interested in suggesting that NextBus add their stop to the real time predictions website, contact NextBus directly.

If my stop isn't added back, I will probably start driving. :( I've had it with Muni. ;)

Melissa brings up an interesting point, ironic, especially when everyone at the meeting was falling all over themselves to talk about how great expanded NextMuni is. I personally had an odd little hiccup when I tried my usual N-Outbound bookmark on my phone, and found it nl longer worked, since it seems they've made some adjustments now that the N goes back to Caltrain.

I also noticed they now mark two stops for inbound trains at Duboce and Church: one is the famous Duboce and Church Stop but the other is new to me on NextMuni, the Tunnel Entry Point Near Church, whose stop is one minute away from....Duboce and Church?

It would seem like the interruption at Carl and Cole is temporary, but if anyone has more complete information, please let us know. I would have been happy to put this in the question pile at FQT, but alas, I'd left before this message arrived.

However, given that they didn't answer any of my questions about the missing scramble signals at 9th/Irving and 9th/Judah, and my question about a potential shortage of streetcars once the Central Subway is built...well, you get the idea...sigh....

UPDATE: Reader Melissa sends us this update, with some notes from NextBus/NextMuni:
Hi Greg,

I hope other people whose stops have been removed will be able to convince NextBus to add them back.

I thought about canceling my plans today so that I could attend Newsom's Muni meeting. From your description, it sounds like it's a good thing that I didn't. ;)

FYI below is a response I received from NextBus.

Cheers,
Melissa

Thank you for alerting us to the problem. Do to a configuration problem
for the N-Judah, predictions are not currently available for stops at Carl & Cole and Carl & Stanyan.This will be fixed as soon as we can receive corrected data from Muni.

Michael Smith
NextBus


June 22, 2007

Reader Mail: Prelude To A Day of Delay on a Friday

Loyal Readers: I didn't have access to a computer most of this afternoon as I took a much needed respite from all things Internet. But I, like many of you, got stuck on enough MUNI trains today to finally abandon the N, et al for a bus (n my case the 6-Parnassus).

It wasn't all bad - I ran into my dad and got to talk to him briefly, and I saw 25 of the most well behaved children in San Francisco get on the bus and act like civilized human beings. To the adults with these kids, all I can say is keep doing what you're doing.

But that was after getting this message just before leaving this morning from Reader Chris, who wrote:

Hi Greg, I continue to enjoy your blog, so please keep it up! This morning, on the way into work downtown at about 7:15, the N-Judah driver stopped our train on Duboce right before the entrance to the Market St. tunnel and said that everyone should get off because the train ahead of him had just backed out of the tunnel and let everyone off, so there appeared to be a major snafu in the tunnel.

Everyone got off, grumbling of course; most headed down to Market, while a few of us headed up to Haight to catch a bus. On the down side, these kinds of incidents continue to show that Muni is headed in the wrong direction. On the up side, I got to know the 7-Haight bus a little better!



Right after that, I took off and ran into delay after delay after delay and realized I should have taken Reader Chris's email as a warning sign. The most fun? Taking 15 minutes to travel between Civic Center and Van Ness Station! D'oh!

We can only hope that they fix this before tomorrow, when the big crowds are in town for the various parades. If you're out and about, be aware that many of our visitors may be coming to town from cities, or even nations, where mass transit systems are run, a bit more, shall we say properly than ours. If you see someone looking quizzically at a map, or is unsure what to do, be an Ambassador of Goodwill and help them out.

Also, be sure to stop by the Blackthorn tomorrow. I stopped by and peeked at the improvements and they have done a hell of a job fixing the place up. Pictures this weekend!

June 17, 2007

Reader Mail: Blocking the N Judah on a Saturday Night For Only $55!

Ok folks, I'm not making this sh*t up. Seriously.

Loyal Reader "MateoSF" was kind enough to send us the YouTube URL for a fit of insantiy on the N-Judah I happened to miss as I was out of town this week in Ed Jew's hometown (and mine, before I escaped), in Burlingame,

Anyway, MateoSF was kind enough to capture on video what could be the most iditotic Jedi move on the N-Judah ever - driving your frakking PRIUS into the Sunset tunnel!

No, really.

Here's his footage. Let's light the lighter because this guys ROCKS, and he ROCKS because he let me know about his incredible footage first!

Rock on!

May 16, 2007

Taking a Break From All Your Worries: An NJC Blog Reader Survey!

Today, I thought we'd take a break from all our MUNI worries and ask for your particpation in a survey of you, the Loyal Readers, to better refine the site as we approach our anniversary. The survey is powered by the Blog Reader Project, which is from the same people who produce Blogads.com, which appear on this site (or will starting next week!)

You can take the survey without worrying your personal identifying information is ending up in a telemarketing database in Bangalore, or an ID theft ring in God Knows Where. Also, I will know that people are taking the survey, but I will not know your specific names and email addresses unless you want to tell that to me. I tested it out and it's safe - anytime there's a question you don't like, just skip it.

Although some other blogs are publicizing select portions of the results, the only person that will be looking at the results of the survey will be myself, as I try to determine what changes would make the site better and meet the needs of Loyal Readers new and old. Some data may be used in aggregate for "big picture" analysis by the BRP, but again, your personal information is never shared with them.

Click on this link to take the survey today and I'll do my best to help make the site better, faster, stronger, bionic, etc. Thanks!

May 7, 2007

Reader Mail - More Trauma and Drama on the N-Judah Line

Our once-Mighty N is being reduced to a bad joke, shared by those who rely on it for their commute, their livelihood, or just about any reason one might need to get from Point A to Point B. MUNI management offers double-talk at best, and, more often, outright lies. This has to stop!

Today we feature two letters from Loyal Readers, one from Eve Batey, an editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and another reader who had similar problems with the N recently. We thank both for their comments and concerns!

Dear Mr Ford-

Eve Batey, here. You might remember me from the interview I did with you for SFist.com this time last year. Now I'm an editor at the San Francisco Chronicle, and Matt Baume has taken over the Muni beat for SFist.

I'm writing to you over my concern with the N Judah, which seems to be more and more frequently ending its run at 19th Avenue. Over the course of this past week, I have been on 5 (five) N Judahs that have reached this premature conclusion without warning -- most recently
tonight, when the N I was on at 12:30 or so ejected its passengers, with the driver informing us that another train would be there to pick us up in "2 or 3 minutes."

Each of the five times this week that the N Judah has ended its run at 19th Avenue, I have walked all the way home to my apartment at 43rd and Irving without seeing another outbound N, putting to lie any "2 or 3 minutes" assertion an N driver might make. Tonight was no exception. While the other abortive rides this week were earlier in the evening -- 8 or 9 PM -- having to walk home after midnight was a whole new low for me. Mr Ford, there aren't a lot of cabs in the Sunset. One's options are to wait for an N, or to walk. Imagine the women you know, family or close friends. Would you want them walking home, alone, at 12:30 at night? So why is that acceptable for any of the passengers of the transit organization you oversee?

Continue reading "Reader Mail - More Trauma and Drama on the N-Judah Line" »

May 2, 2007

Reader Mail -- "The N-Judah Is Literally a Lifeline" AKA Why We Need To Save The N-Judah

Reader Paula J. from the Sunset writes:


Hi Greg,

I recently (in December) moved to the Sunset (48th and Judah) and have been taking the N Judah to Civic Center where I work. (I've lived in SF for 19 years, but have never lived out here).

Anyway, when the T line caused the N Judah to meltdown, I was dumped off in various locations (along with everyone else) and at all hours of the cold nights. I kept seeing this one older person who seemed very sickly. Through this experience as well as through my work which focuses on the food system, I realized that the N Judah is literally a lifeline for the poor.

Several years ago, my organization and others conducted a large scale food system assessment. Through this assessment, I realized that the Sunset had the fewer food resources that most other neighborhoods, especially for the poor including congregate feeding programs (like Glide and St. Anthonys), food pantries, summer lunch sites, etc. Many of our neighborhood's poor residents must take the N Judah to get services including food.

I attend the Board of Supervisors' Food Security Task Force, and have been emphasizing the lack of food resources in the Sunset, especially for the elderly, children and the poor. Without the N Judah, I'm convinced that a significant number of people go hungry.

I really enjoy the N Judah Chronicles, and would be happy to talk more about this.

Thanks!

Paula Jones

PS: Find the Food System Assessment here -- check out the maps on page 42 and 48

Also, the Food Bank has a good neighborhood assessment, and the Sunset has over 13,000 people at risk of being hungry, yet we have only 6 pantries for the entire neighborhood.

Reader Paula makes a point that often gets lost in "transit policy discussions", especially when the bureau-bots and political types get involved. It's quite easy to forget in the reams of statistics, studies, meetings, and whatnots, that public transit is not just some lofty concept - it's something people rely on for their daily lives. And endless "talk" does not get the job done - doing something does.

When we all start tolerating, even expecting mediocrity, failure, and incompetence from the well-paid people downtown who are allegedly working for our benefit, it's not just commuters to good downtown jobs that lose. Everybody loses, and it's those who don't have blogs, or well-paid megaphones who lose out the most.

Mr. Ford? Mr. Newsom? MTA Folk? Are you listening? Do you even care? Or are you all paid well enough not to?

Maybe we oughta put them all on a foodbank challenge like the one Gov. Kulongoski took in Oregon.

Then maybe they'd get the N-Judah back online again!

April 25, 2007

A Faux MUNI Ad I Found By Way of SFist....

Courtesy of SFist, I found this link to a faux ad for MUNI that was somewhat amusing. Check it out!

April 24, 2007

Reader Mail - More Early Turnarounds on N-Judahs Outbound!

Loyal Readers once again submit their tales of woe on the N-Judah...today Reader Jeff S. relates what is becoming an all-too-common occurance - outbound N-Judah trains turning around long before they arrive at Ocean Beach:

Thought you might find this article from last weekend enjoyable (or frustrating or both).

SF MUNI:Broken - Friday Nightmares

And on a related note:

Last Friday around 4pm, two friends and I needed to take the N-Judah inbound from Judah and 28th. No bus in sight, we decided to walk the extra distance from 28th to 25th and Judah, which has a Nextbus display. Nextbus said 29 minutes till the next N. My solution? Walk another half mile to 19th and Judah. Just as we arrived, they were turning around an N at 19th! So we quickly got on.

My two friends (who always always pay) were so fed up with the N, that they hopped on the back figuring MUNI owed them a free ride. Had I not bought a fast pass, I might have joined their little protest.

First off, thanks for the link to SF MUNI:Broken - the author brings up some excellent points, as well as a tale of woe that mirrors one I had on Saturday trying to get home after a wonderful dinner at Morton's Steakhouse.

I have heard the problem our Loyal Reader brings to our attention enough times to wonder if it is simply going to become a fact of life for those living past the Red Line of 19th Street that the N may or may not take them all the way home. Not a pretty prospect at any time, but especially in the winter months.

I plan on sending a barrage of complaints to MUNI to see what happens. Maybe the money spent on those big parties for the T-Third and those many slick brochures could have been spent on something like making the one line that was once on time more than most stay on time.

Private Ford, what are you doing to my beloved N-Judah?

Sigh....

April 20, 2007

Reader Mail: Follow Up Notes, N-Judah Turnarounds, and More

Loyal Readers have been sending mail recently, but only now am I getting caught up. We've got quite a roundup this afternoon!

First, a follow-up to Reader Jeff S. of the Outer Sunset, whom as you may recall sent us this message regarding strange turnarounds on the N-Judah.

After receiving Jeff's e-mail, I decided to try using the MUNI online complaint form.. I received the following response via the system on April 5th:

Dear Mr. Dewar: Thank you for your report regarding your reader’s experience with the driver of the N-Judah line. I have forwarded your report to the Metro Rail Operations and to the Community & Public Relations, for investigation and appropriate action.

Your feedback is appreciated because it allows us to focus on the steps needed to improve our service. Thank you for taking the time to bring this to our attention.

If you need additional information regarding this report, please contact the MUNI Passenger Service Department at (415) 923-6275.

Sincerely,
Maria Williams
Manager, Passenger Services
SF Municipal Railway

So, there you have it. Since receiving this message on April 5th, I've not heard back anything since, so it's either a) gone down the MUNI black hole or b) is being dealt with.

More after the jump...

Continue reading "Reader Mail: Follow Up Notes, N-Judah Turnarounds, and More" »

April 3, 2007

Reader Mail: The Abrupt End of The N?

Reader Jeff S. of the Outer Sunset writes:

Dear N-Judah Chronicles:

Since yesterday [March 30th - ed.], the N-Judah westbound has been turning around at 19th Avenue! My wife has had to get off at 19th both last night and today and find another bus to get her home.

What is up with that? Doesn't MUNI know that people live west of 19th Avenue? We Sunset residents are used to being treated by the city as second class citizens, but this is ridiculous.

I'm assuming (hoping) the situation is temporary. Can you get to the bottom of this?

Thanks,
jeff

After receiving Jeff S.'s email, I emailed MUNI via their new, spiffy website, but as of press time have not received a reply, so I will try the city's new "311" service too, to see what we can find out. If any readers out there have had similar experiences lately, please write in and we'll see what we find.

As always, feel free to email your experiences with the N-Judah, or any MUNI line to the N-Judah Chronicles and share your experiences with your fellow citizens! Thanks!

January 19, 2007

Reader Mail: The "Humane Bell Request" Petition for MUNI Streetcars.

Loyal Reader Eric Gregory writes to us today with this piece of news:

Hi,

Perhaps you've heard about this, but I thought I'd mention it anyway.

There's a petition going around to change the door-can't-close sound from the awful high pitched beep to something more tolerable.

According to the SF Weekly Muni agreed to address the issue if the petition can get 1,000 signatures.

Link:
http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/humanebellrequest/

- Eric

Thanks, Eric! I hadn't actually read all the way through my latest copy of the SF Weekly yet, and missed this article, which goes into detail regarding the online petition by Ms. Susan Hellein.

While I agree that the high pitched, skull splitting sound can be annoying (especially when the doors are broken and they keep opening and closing over and over and over again), I'm not sure what one could replace it with that would A) be more humane and B) still warn doofuses to get the heck out of the way.

Your suggestions? Post in the comments section, and let's see what the creative citizens of Our Fair City can come up with!

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